Monday, 29 September 2014

Surrogacy and the Religious Conundrum!!

Maya Medina of Boynton Beach, a Jewish mother who gave birth through gestational surrogacy, poses with her family in Fort Lauderdale. 

What determines if a child is Jewish? The egg — or the womb?
Three South Florida Jewish mothers who finally have the children they desperately wanted, but could not have for medical reasons, are now fighting to have those children recognized as Jewish.
All three had children through gestational surrogacy, a new technology that uses the intended mother's ovum/egg and the father's sperm with a surrogate carrying the baby to term. The baby is genetically related to both parents and not to the surrogate.
However, since the child was "not born" of a Jewish mother, as Jewish halachic law states, the mothers, all observant Jews, are left in religious limbo regarding the Jewish status of their children. So far, the mothers have not been successful in getting an answer from several rabbis they turned to for help.
"The Jewish laws state that my children are not Jewish because they were not born to a Jewish mother — even though they are 100 percent genetically Jewish," said Lisa Parker of Boynton Beach, who has two toddlers, a boy and girl, born 32 days apart to two surrogates in India.
Parker, whose husband is Israeli, said since both their grandparents are Holocaust survivors, their children should be considered Jewish "considering our parental lines."
"Our grandparents must be turning in their graves because their grandchildren are not considered Jewish," she said. "Hitler would have considered them Jewish — and gassed them."
The 40-year-old Orthodox mother said she "literally went to the ends of the world" to have children, and said she is dismayed that the Orthodox movement does not consider them Jewish, even though "the mohel didn't have a problem performing the bris."
Another mother, Natalie (who declined to use her last name), of Boca Raton, had been through 25 IVF's that took place in Colombia, Europe, Israel and the U.S., and is now the mother of a son through gestational surrogacy.
"After years of emotional, physical, mental and financial stress, we decided to use a surrogate to carry for us. Three surrogates later, we now have a beautiful baby boy, Ariel, our sunshine and prince," she said.
"Since this journey took over 10 years, our Jewish community was extremely happy for us. They attended the bris and naming. Now it seems the only thing left to do is visit the mikvah," she said.
However, that has not happened yet because she has run into problems with local rabbis she said, "Not because they don't want to help, but rather because they're not familiar with IVF and surrogacy," she said.
Maya Medina of Boynton Beach, who decided to explore surrogacy "after a long battle with infertility," and who now has twin boys through gestational surrogacy, echoed those sentiments.
"The problem is that science and rabbinical law have not met at the same level yet," she said. "We need the proper rabbi to attend the mikvah but, so far, all five [rabbis] that I spoke with politely declined. Our family is mostly Conservative and very traditional. My husband and I were both born in Israel and we follow his Sephardic traditions. My husband will not agree to the Reformed practices."
Rabbi Moshe Scheiner of Palm Beach Synagogue, who has been advised of the women's dilemma and is anxious to help, said he would "be happy" to speak with them.
"We tend to require them to go through the mikvah," he said. "These are complex issues. In an Orthodox conversion, there are certain standards that have to be met."
Medina and the other mothers are clutching at a glimmer of hope.
"We would like the world to know that there are many family building options available and want to spread awareness through our journey," she said. "Some Jewish laws may prohibit the practices of science to create families for the childless couple, and we are a true example of how success is possible.",0,6346293.story